If you’re in therapy, sometimes it can be hard to see progress. But several factors, like satisfaction with met goals, can help you assess whether it’s helping or hurting you.

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If you’re starting therapy or seeing a new therapist, you may have questions about the process. Therapy has its ups and downs. While you probably want to feel better as soon as possible, treatment can take time to work.

Therapy can bring up uncomfortable emotions, and it can be hard at times to know if you’re making progress.If you wonder if therapy is working for you, the answer might depend on the therapeutic alliance between you and your therapist.

There are some signs — and questions you can ask yourself and your therapist — that can help you weigh whether therapy is working.

If you see a therapist, it’s vital to assess whether you think therapy is helpful. This is dependent on your plan of treatment and may also depend on what type of therapy is a good fit for you.

Here are some signs of effective therapy:

  • You’re meeting the goals you set with your therapist.
  • You feel like your therapist understands you.
  • You trust your therapist.
  • You view therapy as a safe space.
  • Your therapist holds good boundaries.
  • Your therapist explains to you the benefits and risks of therapy.
  • Your therapist is adequately trained in the issues you’re bringing to therapy.

If you feel like your therapist understands and empathizes with you, that’s a good sign therapy may be working.

A 2018 literature review of over 30,000 patients in therapy supports the notion that therapeutic alliance or the relationship between you and your therapist predicts better therapy outcomes.

Learn more about how to find the right therapist.

If you don’t feel like therapy is working for you, you and your therapist may not be a good match. Research indicates that not all psychotherapy is helpful, and might even be harmful.

Many factors may signal that therapy isn’t working for you:

  • You feel judged by your therapist.
  • Your therapist talks about themselves a lot or makes the session about them.
  • You aren’t meeting your goals.
  • You feel misunderstood by your therapist.
  • You aren’t willing to put in the effort.
  • You aren’t open to your therapist’s suggestions.
  • You don’t trust your therapist.
  • You have a poorly trained therapist.
  • Your therapist is practicing outside their scope of practice.

Therapy may not work for several reasons. Sometimes it’s due to the personal characteristics of the therapist and their area of expertise. Other times, it may be because you aren’t ready to address the problems you’re bringing to therapy in an honest way.

If you don’t have a good relationship with your therapist or are consistently feeling worse after therapy, it may be time for a change.

Questions to ask yourself to determine if you need to change your therapist

  • Do I have a good relationship with my therapist?
  • Do I feel like my therapist is helping me meet my goals?
  • Is my therapist trained in my presenting issues?
  • Am I open to my therapist’s suggestions?
  • Does my therapist have good boundaries?
  • Does my therapist outline a treatment plan?
  • Do I trust my therapist?
  • Am I talking honestly about my problems?
  • Do I find excuses to cancel therapy?
  • Does my therapist go over informed consent?
  • Is my therapist ethical?

If you answered mostly yes, you might be on the right track in therapy. If you answered mostly no, it might be time to break up with your therapist.

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If you find that your therapist has been unethical, sometimes that may require a report to the professional licensing board in your state.

A therapist should never violate your confidentiality or engage in a sexual relationship with you. This is not only unethical but also illegal in some places.

Here’s more about the signs a therapist may be a bad fit for you.

Also, you can check out these resources to see if the partnership you have now is the best fit:

Therapy can take time to work effectively, but if you constantly dread going to therapy or don’t trust your therapist, it may be time to switch therapists.

It may also be helpful to change therapists if you have hit a plateau or feel like you could benefit from a new perspective or modality of therapy.

Remember, therapy is a collaborative process between you and your therapist. You both have to put in the work to reap the benefits.

You can learn more about how to help your therapist help you get more out of your sessions.